Grinning like a Cheshire Cat

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Take 200 excited, even if nervous, recipients of the Chief Scout Gold Award, a sports hall filled with more than 400 very proud family, friends and leaders and not even the cold and wet weather of Cheshire could dampen the atmosphere on Sunday afternoon….

My week kicked off on Monday with a K3 meeting before flying to Belfast on Tuesday for meetings with Wilfred, Chief Commissioner and former Chief Scout George Purdy, before interviews in the evening with the shortlisted candidates for the role of Chief Commissioner of Northern Ireland.

They will succeed Wilfred who retires this month. It was great to see the large number of nominations and applications that we received and to have an opportunity to discuss with the shortlisted candidates their thoughts and ideas of the future prospects for Scouting in Northern Ireland.

Catching up

Back home for the day job on Wednesday and Thursday before returning to Gilwell for the now familiar round of catch up discussions and meetings.  Friday’s included a discussion with the Director of Finance regarding various topics and our budgets for the coming year.

We also took the opportunity to film some messages for use later in the year (I have to say it feels a bit odd filming a Christmas message in your polo shirt on the Training Ground enjoying some late autumn sunshine – it’s the nerves, not that I was shivering, honest!).

A good crowd

It was then time to join the slow moving traffic out of London in the mist and fog heading towards Hinckley in the Midlands to join the County Commissioners and Chairs from the five Counties in the East Midlands region who were gathering for their meeting and the DC/GSL conference and DAS days at the weekend.

I am pleased to say that the audience were much more lively at the start than the last (you always know you are in for a good day when the ‘Think you know Scouting’ video gets a good reaction from the audience).

We also had a good question and answer session with topics as varied as the cost of adult recruitment resources, whether or not we could offer more advice including templates for risk assessments to be tailored for local use and a credit card sized version of the Yellow Card to fit the wallet and purse easier. 

Other questions related to external publicity, Bear’s activities and whether or not atheists should be permitted to be leaders.

Cheshire says chees

I continued my travels by train to Crewe ahead of a day in Cheshire on Sunday but before that we met with Carol who had recently expressed an interest in our Adult Support roles but whose varied and senior professional experiences suggested that she would be able to assist us in a variety of other ways and so we had invited her to the DC/GSL day to get an insight into our vision for the future and to have an opportunity to meet with members in their discussion groups.

Thankfully Carol has agreed to assist us in a number of projects. An interesting learning point for me is that Carol had applied to an advertisement we had placed in People Management (a publication for HR professionals) not having any other previous involvement with the Movement but has been sufficiently attracted following her own research to want to get involved. Just how may other Carols are there waiting for us out there?

A chance to catch up with Graham, County Commissioner for Cheshire, and Chris, Regional Commissioner for North West England before embarking on a busy day of visits on Sunday. First up was breakfast with the District team (GSLs and ADCs) from Macclesfield District.

The District Commissioner, Mark, had invited me to meet with his team following the meeting he had joined as part of the Cheshire County team earlier this year and also to take the opportunity of being in the area to open an extension to the Dane Valley headquarters later that morning.

We had a lively and interesting discussion (over two hours) primarily around the role of the Group Scout Leader and taking the opportunity to share some of the thinking behind our national work as well as listening to the challenges that are experienced locally in trying to take some of these forward.

The Dane Valley Scout Group first opened in 1979 at a nearby URC Church hall before having their headquarters opened by the then Chief Scout, Major General Michael Walsh in 1984. They had invited me along to join them in celebrating the opening of their recent extension and to join the members of the Group as they were undertaking the Environment Partnership Award with a variety of activities for each of the sections.

Dane Valley in Congleton enjoys great support from all walks of local life and it was good to meet with a wide variety of people the town, all of whom had joined together to turn the Group’s aspirations into reality.

Good as gold

We then joined more than 200 Cheshire Scouts for the presentation of their Chief Scout's Gold Award. The day can best be summed up by following the link to the DVD that appeared on YouTube less than 12 hours after the event (well done Dave, Adam and team)! 

I have been fortunate recently to attend a number of award presentations for young people (and adults alike) and do think these are a fantastic opportunity for celebrating our young people’s achievements, recognising the vital role played by leaders and engaging their parents and members of the community in ways they can assist us. Certainly if Cheshire was anything to go by, it is a great opportunity to display Scouting at its very best.

A great way to end an immensely satisfying week – so much so that I fell asleep on the plane home – hence the blog is a little late I’m afraid!

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